Men ramming each other with sticks in slow motion: awesome, but Full Metal Jousting needs more

Full Metal Jousting concluded its first season last night, and while it didn’t prove itself to be as strong as Top Shot–which also airs on History and is produced by the same producers–it’s another well-crafted reality show that actually makes sense on its network.

The show gave us reality TV’s first horse punch elimination, and may be the most brutal reality TV competition since The Contender, which involved punching people in the head. (There are some similarities between the two shows, primarily the tournament structure.) Here, pretty much everyone was on the same playing field, because they’re competing in a sport that isn’t really practiced, and they made a point of repeatedly saying that theatrical jousting is very, very different.

As with Top Shot, the slow motion photography on Full Metal Jousting has been exceptional, especially when the force of getting hit with the lance knocked a jouster off his horse. That was spectacular no matter how many times it happened.

There was enough in-house drama to satiate viewers who wanted more than a lesson in a medieval sport, and a lot of injuries, although no one stick their lance in another’s neck, like on Game of Thrones. Also, for the record, while several jousters had trouble with their horses, no jouster cut his horse’s head off.

The problem is that the show got pretty repetitive fast. There was very little focus on training as the series progressed, and with the eliminated contestants sticking around, the show looked similar week to week–same group of people watching and sitting around the house. With the jousters in protective armor, the jousts didn’t look much different, either (and don’t get me started on the jousts where they wore the same color armor).

I hope it’s renewed for a second season, and I imagine its producers will refine the formula, as they did on Top Shot Here, I’d like to see them differentiate between eliminated contestants and those still in the game, and show us what everyone does all day, such as the different ways they train. If they just train by practicing on horseback, well, that’s a problem for the show, which needs variety to fill an hour, especially when the climactic joust ends up being pretty anti-climactic.

I’d also like to see the contestants challenged every episode, with challenges that have some kind of consequence and are relevant to the competition, but also make for good TV. Have them compete by racing through obstacles in their armor, trying to stand up the fastest after falling down while wearing that heavy gear, attempting to stay on the fake horse for the longest, or capturing the most rings with their lance in a minute. (I’m sure they can come up with better challenges.)

Each episode should climax with men sticking each other, but to be a great reality competition, Full Metal Jousting needs more than just metal and jousting.

Full Metal Jousting: B+

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.